WITH Mother's Day (March 14) fast approaching, thoughts rightly turn to all those hard working mums. Well, please spare a thought for Britain's hardest working mother - the dairy cow.

She suffers the dual burden of being milked while pregnant seven months of the year. Cows - just like human mothers - produce milk to feed their babies, and she produces up to 120 exhausting pints a day. For us to drink that milk the baby is taken away from her - year after year. Imagine the heartache if that was your child? The only thanks she gets after five years of service is to be sent to the slaughterhouse when her productivity drops.

Unbelievably, things are set to get worse for this most over-worked of all farmed animals. Britain is fast adopting the American zero-grazing system as a way of squeezing every last drop out of Britain's dairy cows. A new unit in Lincolnshire is set to house over 8,000 cows - and if this goes ahead it will be the first of many that might spring up in your area. Zero-grazing is as it sounds: cows spend most of the year inside away from pasture and sunshine; the only time they leave their sheds is to be milked three times a day. After condemning chickens, pigs and ducks to Britain's intensive units, are we so reckless and stupid that we are now forcing dairy cows to join the factory farmed millions?

Even if you don't agree with factory farming dairy cows, if you drink milk there will be no way of knowing if that milk comes from one of these prison-like units. Even less intensive dairy farming still has unavoidable welfare problems. The only way to be sure that you are not contributing to cruelty is to not drink milk at all and take a plant-based alternative instead.

Give Britain's hardest working mother a break this year - say "No!" to dairy. For more on Britain's intensive dairy farming visit www.milkmyths.org.uk and for lots of cruelty-free vegan recipe ideas visit www.viva.org.uk/recipes.

JULIET GELLATLEY Founder and director Viva!

York Court Wilder Street Bristol